Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?

 
gentlemen-prefer-blondesBlonde-haired women have many stereotypes to deal with. Supposedly they have more fun, less brainpower, and are the preferred object of many a man’s affections. The first two are just that, stereotypes. But the third, that gentlemen prefer blondes, may actually have some grounding in truth.

For years, scientists have argued over why, in numerous studies, men seem to prefer blonde-haired women. Some groups have suggested that this preference is due to the perception of rarity, since worldwide around 2% of people are naturally blonde. Others have suggested that there are cultural significances projected onto hair color, with blonde or light-colored hair symbolizing “goodness” or “youth”. In 2010 it was even reported that blonde women get paid more than their brunette counterparts, implying perceived abilities based upon hair color.

But how do you scientifically test for a preference? Asking questions in a laboratory setting might not be the best approach, and responses to a survey may not reflect real word behaviors. So, to ask whether or not men prefer blondes in a social setting, Viren Swami of the University of Westminster in London, UK designed two complementary studies. In the first, he enlisted the help of a woman who would look natural with blonde, brunette or red hair. Over the period of six weeks, her hair color was changed from a natural brunette, to blonde, and finally red. With these different hair colors, she went to various clubs in London where her interactions with local men were tracked.

In the second study, pictures of the same girl with her different hair colors were shown to over a hundred different men in the same clubs as the first study. They were asked to rate the pictures not only for physical attractiveness, but also for perceived intelligence, approachability, neediness, and sexual promiscuity.

The first study showed a marked preference for blonde hair, with 60 recorded interactions, compared to 18 when the woman had red hair. With brunette hair, she was approached 42 times. However, in the second study, men rated her most attractive as a brunette. In fact, the only assessed factor in which the blonde-haired version scored significantly higher was in neediness. Study one, therefore, showed a preference for blonde-hair, whereas study two did not. The data also suggested that either men are not necessarily looking for a physically attractive mate, but instead use hair color as a proxy for other characteristics.

This study is clearly preliminary, however it does suggest two interesting things: One, when assessing social interactions, testing a hypothesis in the real world as opposed to in the lab may yield novel information. And two, choose your hair color wisely, because it may have inexplicable (and in some cases, ethically dubious) impacts on your life.
 

Click Here For Article References:
1. Sorokowski, P. (2006).Studia Psychologiczne, 44, 77–88.
2. Frost, P. (2006) Evolution and Human Behavior, 27,85–103.
3. Jaher, F. C. (1983) American Quarterly, 35, 518–542.
4. Johnston, D. W. (2010) Economic Letters, 108, 10–12.
5. Swami, V. (2011) Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 52, 595-600

Katie recently received her Ph.D. in molecular biology at Brown University and is currently working as a freelance science writer, illustrator, and communicator, based in Providence, RI. She has been blogging for two years, both on her own website, KatiePhD.com, and around the science-web.

Comments

  1. I have read research papers regarding blonde headed women and there is a preference for these women based on a subconscious knowledge, by men, which is linked to the fact that blondes are actually more fertile than their counterparts. Therefore, when a male is looking for a suitable mate to procreate, he is naturally attracted to a blonde due to the ‘inbuilt’ knowledge that he will be assured that his ‘bloodline’ shall carry on should he pair with a blonde~!

  2. I don’t know about this – you’d need to base the study on a range of women to know draw any real conclusion. Some women look better blonde, others look better brunette or red haired. It’s also possible that the girl gave off different signals when sporting a different hair colour as subconsciously she felt different (I know I felt more sophisticated when I dyed my hair brown, some say they feel more flirty with blonde hair).